BROADCAST: 20 Sep 1955 [1]


Script by Spike Milligan and Eric Sykes


GREENSLADE: This is the BBC Home Service.

GRAMS: Enormous raspberry.

GREENSLADE: Thank you. (Clears throat) Ahem. In the last three years war books have had the highest sales in the world – but nowhere else. Among the best sellers were…

SECOMBE: “Reach For the Sky.” [2]

SELLERS: “The Cruel Sea.” [3]

MILLIGAN: “I Flew for the Führer.” [4]

SECOMBE: “The Colditz Story.” [5]

MILLIGAN: “The Hotlitz Story.” AND NOW…

GREENSLADE: (Self effacingly) This is the BBC Home Service.

GRAMS: Repeat enormous raspberry.

SELLERS: [6] The story we tell tonight is one of courage, heroism, tenacity – of a man gifted with a great intellect. His name was…

ECCLES: He-ello.

SELLERS: No, not him. It was Seagoon M.C.C.[7]

SEAGOON: Yes, Seagoon M.C.C. I was a batman – get it? Seagoon M.C.C. – batman! (Laughs uproariously) Ha ha ha ha ha ha! He ha ha…

GREENSLADE: The book “Seagoon M.C.C.” is available in leather, paper or book form. All in all, sixteen brass and porridge bound volumes, complete with colour plates, words, pages and needle-nardle noo.

SELLERS: [8] The forward for this massive tome…

ECCLES: Tome? What’s at ‘ome?

FLOWERDEW: Nobody. I live by myself.

GREENSLADE: The forward for this tome was written by Field Marshall Eccles, who also wrote the backward. We proudly present…

SEAGOON: Seagoon M.C.C.! 
ORCHESTRA: Dramatic military introduction. 
SEAGOON: Chapter one. Nineteen thirty-nine – I join the colours. 
ELLINGTON: Man, welcome to the regiment. 
ORCHESTRA: Corny chord. 
GREENSLADE: Chapter four, in which Neddie Seagoon is transferred to a more suitable regiment. 
FX: Chains behind. Scuffling boots. 
SEAGOON: (Going off) No, no! Put me down! HE-EELP! You can't do this to me! Aargh. 
SERGEANT:[9] Shut up! 
GRYTPYPE: Ah, now what have we got here? 
SERGEANT: A volunteer sir. 
SEAGOON: It’s all a mistake, sir! It’s all a mistake, I can't join. You can't take me – I'm… (attempting a US accent) I'm an American buddy, you see. I'm an American. Aye, aye. I'm from the prairie. Aye, I'm from the prairie. I'm er… I'm from New York. 
GRYTPYPE: New York? 
GRYTPYPE: Oh. Do know the Bronx? 
SEAGOON: Know ‘em well. I married their daughter Gladys Bronk. 
GRYTPYPE: Oh. You'd better report to the American Army authorities. Just through there… 
SEAGOON: Oh, thank you buddy. 
FX: Door opens then closes. Chains continue. 
SEAGOON: (Normal voice) Good morning. 
GRYTPYPE: (Approaching) Good morning buddy. You want to join the American Army buddy ? 
SEAGOON: No, no – I can't join. You see, I'm… I'm… I'm British!
GRYTPYPE: I knew you weren't American the moment you mentioned you're married to Gladys Bronk. 
GRYTPYPE: I am Gladys Bronk. 
SEAGOON: Darling – together again!
GRYTPYPE: Shall we dance? 
SEAGOON: Of course.
GRAMS: Waltz Music. 
GREENSLADE: That was the special happy ending for housewives. Now here is what really happened. 
GRYTPYPE: Sergeant, arrest that fat bladder of lard. 
SEAGOON: No, buddy darling, no! I can't join the army. You see, I'm only sixteen. GRYTPYPE: Then you'll have to lie about your age. 
SEAGOON: I am lying about my age. 
GRYTPYPE: Congratulations. You’re the first man to lie his way into the army. Next please. 
SEAGOON: Curses, dear listeners. Dear listeners, all my cunning, skirt, urchin cut,[10] high heeled shoes, unavailed me naught. Never mind dear listeners, no army can hold a Seagoon for long. Ha ha! I had ideas. After all – money talks. 
MILLIGAN: (High pitched) I’m a threepenny bit. 
SEAGOON: Silence, or I'll put the coppers on you! 
GRYTPYPE: Seagoon, why are you hanging around? 
SEAGOON: I'll tell you why. (Aside) I took out a roll of pound notes and tossed the rubber band into his lap. 
GRYTPYPE: Wait! This rubber band is empty. Sergeant!
GRAMS: Company on parade. Speed it up. 
SERGEANT: (Fading into distance.) Hup! Left, right, left, right, left, right, left, right, left, right… 
GREENSLADE: Chapter five, in which Seagoon tries to work his ticket. 
SEAGOON: Yes. As I sat in my padded cell chained to the wall in a double straight, I thought, “I know what I'll do – I'll act mad.” (Laughing manically) Haa haa haa haa! Yes, haa haa haa haa! (Shouts) Warder! I want to join the lovely British army. 
GRAMS: Single whoosh. 
GRYTPYPE: Sign here. 
FX: Pen on paper. 
GREENSLADE: Chapter six, in which Private Seagoon tries to work his ticket.[11] 
SEAGOON: Yes. When the Blitz came England was under a very heavy aerial bombardment, mainly from the air. I thought of a mad hair-brained scheme that would surely prove I was unfit for military service. 
GRAMS: Regiment on parade. Speed it up.
SERGEANT: (Approaching) Left, right, left, right, left, right, left, right, left, right . Private Seagoon – HALT!
GRAMS: Regiment halting.
SERGEANT: Private Seagoon, from the right – number! 
SEAGOON: (Smartly) One two three four five six seven eight nine ten. 
SERGEANT: Private Seagoon all correct and present sir. 
GRYTPYPE: Stand easy.  
GRAMS: Company stands easy.
GRYTPYPE: Neddie, you know that idea you submitted? 
SEAGOON: (Insane giggling) The one about filling bags of skin with gas and letting them up on pieces of string above London to frighten enemy aircraft?
GRYTPYPE: (Grinning) Yes, that one. 
SEAGOON: (Hearty laughter) That one, ha ha! Anyone thinking of an idea like that should be thrown out of the army, eh? HAHAHAHA! (Lunatic) Bibble-bibble-bibble-bibble-bibble-bibble-bibble-bibble-bibble-bibble-bibble…
GRYTPYPE: Look up there in the sky. 
SEAGOON: (Horrified) Arrrgghh! Bags of skin on pieces of string. My idea! 
GRYTPYPE: Yes, barrage balloons.[12] And as a token of gratitude, the War Office has granted you promotion. 
SEAGOON: Arrrgghh! 
GRAMS: Company doing quick march. Speed it up. 
SERGEANT: (Marching into distance.) Left, right, left, right, left, right… Go on there.
GREENSLADE: Chapter seven, in which Lance Corporal Seagoon tries to work his ticket. 
SEAGOON: This time I decided to take my crazy scheme to another quarter – to some real idiot. 
BLOODNOK: At the time, I was heavily engaged in the defence of London. See also “The War Memoirs of Major Dennis Bloodnok, Professional Coward” – price two shillings.
SEAGOON: I'd expected to find the Major in a sumptuous Whitehall office. 
BLOODNOK: Ah, but no. I was a simple soldier and content to defend London from a quiet country field, in a little iron room five-hundred feet below ground. 
FX: Knocking on heavy metal door. 
BLOODNOK: (Fear) I surrender! I surrender! 
                     (sings) Deutschland, Deutschland über alles…[13]
SEAGOON: (Distant) It’s Corporal Seagoon. 
                     (sings) There'll always be an England[14]
Ohhh, ohhh, ohhohh! Come in lad. 
FX: Heavy metal door opening. Clank of locks and chains. 
BLOODNOK: Have they invaded yet ? 
SEAGOON: No sir. 
BLOODNOK: Arghh! Sergeant…
BLOODNOK: Haul down that German flag. 
THROAT: Right.
SEAGOON: Major, you're not thinking of surrender? 
BLOODNOK: What?! A Bloodnok never surrenders. (I never get near enough. See also my war biography, “A Bloodnok Who Never Surrenders” by Major Denis Bloodnok P.O.W.)[15] Now, would you care to join me in a small shot of schnapps? 
SEAGOON: I don't like small schnapp shots, sir. 
BLOODNOK: Say that again. 
SEAGOON: I daren't risk it. 
BLOODNOK: Personally, I don't blame you. However, now to whom do I owe the honour of this visit? 
BLOODNOK: What a brilliant description! 
SEAGOON: Needle nardle noo! 
BLOODNOK: Sit here, please. 
SEAGOON: I crept into a concrete safe with him. 
BLOODNOK: I'll just put on my eight steel hats, three gas masks and strap on this stirrup pump.[16] Argh, there! Now, let them come. Now, what is it? 
SEAGOON: Major, did you do know England is under a heavy air offensive? 
BLOODNOK: I had heard rumours, yes. 
SEAGOON: Major, I have a brilliant plan. 
BLOODNOK: That sounds like a brilliant plan! (aside) If it works, I shall accept the responsibility. If it fails – it was all his idea in the first place. 
SEAGOON: Aside – good. If it went wrong I’ll be blamed – (laughs) hahaha, and then I'd get my ticket. Ha ha ha ha! Normal. (Clears throat) Aloud. Ah, this is the idea; build cardboard tanks, put them on Salisbury plain, and the Germans will waste thousand of bombs on them.[17] 
BLOODNOK: Grab me scalibass and thud me gringers! You… you must be mad!
SEAGOON: (Over-excited) Yes. Yes, that is it. I'm mad. You'll tell my CO won't you? (Raving) I'm mad. Ha ha, I'm mad. (Goes off barking) Owh owh owh owh owh owh owh owh… 
BLOODNOK: Get out of here you naughty doggie! 
FX: Heavy metal door sliding shut.
FX: Military style telephone dialling.  
BLOODNOK: (sings) I’ll follow my secret heart 
                          till I find you…[18]
Hello – the war office? Ah, I've had a brilliant idea. Look, why don't we build cardboard tanks… (self fade) and then…
GRAMS: Distant sound of aircraft. Hold under. 
SEAGOON: So my plan was put into operation. Three weeks later, the air over Salisbury Plain was vibrant with the sound of German aircraft. 
BLOODNOK: What a sight it was! I saw it all on the newsreel. The silly Germans swallowed the bait and bombed the cardboard tanks. 
GREENSLADE: This is the BBC Home Service. Last night, fleets of German bombers dropped cardboard bombs on Salisbury Plain. 
BLOODNOK: What! What! What! (Spluttering with fury) Oooh, d’oooph, d’oooph… See also my book, “It Wasn't My Idea in the First Place” – price one and nine. 
SEAGOON: See also my book, “Then Why Did Bloodnok Take the Credit” – price a shilling. 
BLOODNOK: See also, “It Looked Good On Paper” – price sixpence. 
SEAGOON: See also, “Bloodnok Tried To Deceive Me” – price threepence. 
BLOODNOK: See also, “Why Don't You SHUT UP!” – price tuppence. 
SEAGOON: See also, “How Dare You Speak to Me Like That!” – a penny. 
BLOODNOK: See also, “Take that!”… 
FX: Hard slap. 
BLOODNOK: … post free! 
SEAGOON: See also my sequel – “Take That!” 
FX: Series of slaps. 
BLOODNOK: Ooo, you naughty man…
BOTH: (Fighting) Take that…&c
GREENSLADE: See also, “I was Tito's Pianist” by Max Geldray in the plain wrappers. 
MAX GELDRAY:  “You Go to My Head” [19]
GRAMS: Regiment on parade. 
SERGEANT: (Approaching) Left right, left right, left right, left right, left right. Corporal Seagoon… (aside) (See also, “I Marched Him In” – price ten shillings.) Corporal Seagoon, HALT. 
GRAMS: Regiment coming to attention.
SERGEANT: Corporal Seagoon, from the right number there. 
SEAGOON: (Smartly) One two three four five six seven eight nine ten. 
SERGEANT: Seagoon all correct and present, sir. 
GRYTPYPE: Seajune, Bloodnok accuses you of initiating the cardboard tank idea. 
SEAGOON: That's right – all mine. All my crazy idea. (Laughing) A-ha ha! Anyone who comes out with an idea like that should be thrown out of the army, ehi? (Insane laughter) Shouldn’t they? (Barely-contained hysteria.)
GRYTPYPE: Look out of the window. 
SEAGOON: (Horrified) Aaaaaaargh! Cardboard tanks. 
GRYTPYPE: Yes. We were able to build them out of all those lovely cardboard bombs the Germans dropped, thanks to you – Sergeant Seagoon.[20]
SEAGOON: Sergeant. No. I er… No, no, no! Before I sew the tapes on sir, I have another idea. 
GRYTPYPE: You have – what? 
SEAGOON: Yes. (Nervously giggles) Just a moment, I… I'll have to think of it. (Burst of laughter) Yes, yes, yes. (Hysterical, then calming down.) The Germans are only separated from us by the channel, ehi? – which is only twenty one miles wide. 
GRAMS: Body diving into water. Strong trudgeon stroke into distance. Pause. Fade in swimmer returning. Sounds of panting.
GRYTPYPE: Actually it's twenty two. 
SEAGOON: I knew it was twenty two all the time. I was keeping the real distance a secret.[21]
GRYTPYPE: Were you? 
GRYTPYPE: Have a grenade. 
GRAMS: Hand grenade explodes. 
SEAGOON: (Smartly) One two three four five six seven eight nine… 
GRYTPYPE: Now Seagoon, what is this brilliant plan of yours? 
SEAGOON: Captain, supposing the channel was a hundred miles across, wouldn't that make the Germans think twice about invading us? 
GRYTPYPE: Well, that would certainly deter them. 
SEAGOON: Yes, they'd have to make a detour. Get it? (Hearty laughter) Ha ha ha ha ha! A detour! (Laughter followed by embarrassment.)
GRYTPYPE: Have a grenade. 
GRAMS: Hand grenade explodes. 
SEAGOON: (Smartly) One two three four five six seven eight… 
MORIARTY: (Approaching) Oh sapristi, yakka bakkaka koo. One moment Captain Grytpype, one moment please. As commander of the Fried French Forces, I think that this lad's idea is very good. Tell me little nation of shopkeepers – how do you intend making the channel a hundred miles wide? [22]
SEAGOON: That gentlemen, is your worry. 
MORIARTY: And this is yours. 
GRAMS: Hand grenade explosion. 
SEAGOON: (Smartly) One two three four five six seven… 
GRYTPYPE: (We're wearing him down, dear listeners.) 
SEAGOON: Very well – (see also my book, “I Said Very Well” – price eight pounds.) Gentlemen, I'll lay my cards on the table. I'll give you an idea that will win the war, provided you give me my discharge from the army. 
MORIARTY: It's a deal. As soon as the war is over, you will be discharged from the army. 
SEAGOON: Right. Now this is it – build a full scale cardboard replica of England, anchor it off the coast of Germany, then when the Germans have invaded it, we tow it out to sea and pull the plug out. 
MORIARTY: Build a replica you said. 
GRYTPYPE: Wait a moment. I don't know the meaning of the word ‘replica.’ 
SEAGOON: That's your pigeon.[23] 
FX: Pigeon cooing.[24] 
MORIARTY: So it is! And it's got a dictionary strapped to its leg…
FX: Pages rapidly turning.
MORIARTY: … and here under the R is the word ‘replica.’ ‘Replica’ – meaning ‘model of’. 
GRYTPYPE: Who could build this replica? 
SEAGOON: Before I answer that, may I ask a question? 
SEAGOON: Who can build this replica? 
GRAMS: Hand grenade explodes. 
SEAGOON: (Smartly) One two three four five six… 
GREENSLADE: Meantime, in the house of the well known cardboard contractor on the coast of Eastbourne. 
CRUN: Oh dear, dear. You can't get the wood you know. [25]
BANNISTER: It'll all be over by Christmas, buddy. 
OLD UNCLE OSCAR:[26] Have you seen my teeth Henry? 
FX: Rummaging in bin of odds and ends. Continue under.
BANNISTER: Uncle Oscar’s lost his teeth. 
UNCLE OSCAR: I had them this morning… 
FX: Bunch of spoons fall onto hard surface.
CRUN & BANNISTER: (Variously) Ohh!
UNCLE OSCAR: I had them first thing this morning and erm... (Continues under)
CRUN: He’s released all my pigeons. (Continues under)
BANNISTER: (Crossly to Henry) You stop in there so long! 
FX: Tobacco box falls to ground. 
BANNISTER: Ohh! (Continues under)
UNCLE OSCAR: I’ve lost my teeth… &c
CRUN: Quiet, Uncle….&c  
GREENSLADE: This went on for some time. 
FX: Knock at door.
BANNISTER: Oooie… Oooie! Oohaa – its the invaders. We'll all being invaded in our beds. 
FX: Further knocking.
SEAGOON: (Distant) Anybody in? 
CRUN: (Trembling) Aowwie! He speaks English. 
BANNISTER: These Germans are very clever – they speak German as well. [27]
FX: Hard thumping on door. 
SEAGOON: (Distant) Let me in! 
BANNISTER: One step nearer and we'll take off our gas masks! 
CRUN: Yes. 
SEAGOON: (Distant) Dear patriotic old couple, I'm British. I can prove it by the horse I'm riding. 
CRUN: How ? 
SEAGOON: (Distant) Go on tell them. 
HORSE: [28] Yeah, he's British. 
CRUN: How do I know the horse is telling the truth? 
SEAGOON: Have you ever heard of a horse telling a lie? 
BANNISTER: He’s got you there Henry. You’d better uncouple the locks and let him in.  
CRUN: Yes, yes I 'd better let him in. 
FX: Door opening. 
SEAGOON: Thank you. Now, which one of you two is Mister Crun? 
BANNISTER: I'm Miss Bannister. 
SEAGOON: Never mind who you are. Which one is Henry Crun? 
BANNISTER: Don't tell him Henry. 
CRUN: No. I'm… I’m… I'm not going to tell him Min. In any case,[29] why do you want to know my name? 
SEAGOON: Mister Crun! You make cardboard models and scenery? 
CRUN: If I was Mister Crun (which I'm not admitting,) yes I do. 
SEAGOON: Well I'm Neddie Seagoon, and I'm acting for Captain Grytpype-Thynne 
CRUN: Why ? 
SEAGOON: He's a very bad actor. 
HORSE: He's British!
SEAGOON: So is the Ray Ellington Quartet! 
RAY ELLINGTON QUARTET:  “Razzle Dazzle” [30]
CRUN: See also, “You Can't Get The Musicians” – price three shillings.
SEAGOON: Mr Crun, as I was saying – have you a full scale cardboard replica of England? 
CRUN: Oh, I'm sorry – the last one was sold this morning. 
SEAGOON: Curses. Who bought it? 
CRUN: Oh dear um… mnk, mnk… a military looking gentleman called Major Bloodnok. 
SEAGOON: Major Bloodnok? (Thinks) Bloodnok… Bloodnok …
FX: Single stroke of a bell. 
SEAGOON: The name rings a bell. 
BLOODNOK: Yes. I'm a bell ringer. Oohhh! 
SEAGOON: You – you naughty bell ringer! What have you done with that full scale cardboard replica of England?
BLOODNOK: Ooohhhooohh!
SEAGOON: Open your coat. (Surprised gasp) Mmmm – its not there. No, you're hiding it somewhere else. (Suspiciously) Lift up your hat.  
ECCLES: (Approaching) He-ello. 
SEAGOON: Mad Dan Eccles! What are you doing under his hat ? 
ECCLES: I'm his barber. 
BLOODNOK: Yes – he's the black sheep of the family. 
ECCLES: Yeah. I'm baa baa black sheep. 
SEAGOON: Eccles, lift up your hat. 
GRAMS: Old fashioned gramophone recording of quick-step.
SEAGOON: Good heavens! A hat band. 
ECCLES: Now you know why I sleep with my hat on. 
BLOODNOK: I… I can't lie to you Neddie. Look here – I'll… I'll tell you where the replica is. It's already being assembled off Liverpool in the river Mersey ready for convoy. 
SEAGOON: Ah! I realised that my great plan was being put into operation and unless I intercepted Colonel Grytpype-Thynne and General Fried French Moriarty, they would claim the idea as theirs. I plan to capture them and force them to sign a document that would give me claim as the inventor, and thus enable me to buy my freedom from the army. 
ORCHESTRA: Corny chord. 
SEAGOON: (Scouse) Thank you. (Normal) To help me capture my two enemies, I hired two stalwart men. I was to meet them just outside Liverpool. 
GRAMS: Bitter wind howling. Hold under.
BLUEBOTTLE: Shall I tell you something Eccles? After the war I'm going to write a book called, “I Was A Commando”. 
ECCLES: Fine, Fine, Fine. 
BLUEBOTTLE: Yes. We are brave commandos, aren't we Eccles? 
ECCLES: Yeah. 
BLUEBOTTLE: You are a brave commando, and I am a brave commando. 
ECCLES: Yeah – fine, yeah. Both are… both are… Yeah.
BLUEBOTTLE: We're both brave. Being brave it is fine. (In fright) HERE! There's a spider crawling up my leg. I’m frighted! I don't like this game. Moves right, show first class coward’s badge. 
GRAMS: Single whoosh. 
FX: Rattling of dustbin lid. 
SEAGOON: It's me, you fools. Come out of that dustbin! 
FX: More rattling. 
ECCLES: (Muffled) We were just having dinner. Care to join us? 
SEAGOON: I raised the lid of the invitation. 
FX: Dustbin lid lifting. 
GRAMS: Hotel Quartet playing “Blue Heaven.” [31]
WAITER:[32] Your hat and coat sir? 
SEAGOON: Thank you 
WAITER: Sit here, sir. 
SEAGOON: Thank you. 
FX: Dustbin lid slammed down.
GRYTPYPE: Ah – got you! 
SEAGOON: (Muffled) Quick, somebody's put the lid on! 
GRYTPYPE: Neddie, you're not going to get away. 
SEAGOON: (Muffled) Trapped in the dustbin. Quick, pay off the band! 
ORCHESTRA: Dramatic military link. Segue into nautical link.
GRAMS: Waves lapping. Continue under. 
SEAGOON: Oooh! Urghh! I awoke with a pain in my neck 
BLOODNOK: Yes, it was me. 
SEAGOON: Bloodnok – where are we? 
BLOODNOK: Ooh, that swine Moriarty kidnapped us in the dustbin and set us adrift on the cardboard replica of England. We're floating towards Germany, lad. 
ECCLES: Ooo! See also my book, “Ooo”. 
SEAGOON: We'll all be killed. 
BLOODNOK: Killed? A fate worse than death. 
BANNISTER: (In a daze) Oooo! Oou iooou iooou ieeeou… What's happened?
BLOODNOK: Minnie! You here as well? Oooh, let me help you up my little flower. 
BANNISTER: I can get up myself. 
BLOODNOK: My little self raising flower! 
SEAGOON: I see it all now…
GRAMS: Distant bombers approaching.
SEAGOON: Grytpype is making sure we're all killed by German bombers so that he can claim the idea as his. But he won't get away with it. I'm too clever! 
GRAMS: Bombs falling.
GRAMS: Explosion. Falling masonry and rubble. 
GRYTPYPE: But I did. Next show please. 
ECCLES: You've been listening to the Goon Show. 
FX: Pistol shot.
GRYTPYPE: Next announcer please. 
ORCHESTRA: End theme.
GREENSLADE: That was the Goon show, a recorded program featuring Peter Sellers, Harry Secombe and Spike Milligan with the Ray Ellington quartet and Max Geldray. The orchestra was conducted by Wally Stott, script by Spike Milligan and Eric Sykes, announcer Wallace Greenslade the programme produced by Peter Eton. 
ORCHESTRA: Playout.[33]


[1] It was now a decade since the surrender of Germany. Despite peace, Britain was desperately trying to invest in a future more secure than the victorious present. The Cold War – the stalemate resulting from the unfinished business of WWII, was heating up, and every day threatened a nuclear cataclysm far more deadly than the air raids and doodle bugs of the previous decade. The complexities of this new military standoff made many – including Milligan, nostalgic for battles fought with good old cunning and bravery. In turn it made the British public hungry for stories of safe wars; conventional wars; wars where they knew what would happen on the last page of the book; wars which showed that bunglers could outsmart an organised military machine and be home in time for tea and medals.

This episode, the first of series six, was most probably based on the film ‘Carrington V.C.’ starring David Niven and Margaret Leighton, released in the UK the previous month. Originally a 1953 play by Dorothy and Campbell Christie, it concerns the trial of a decorated WWII hero, arrested for embezzlement, desertion and impropriety. The drama is agonising and compelling, and it raises the issue of the treatment of War Veterans – something particularly close to Spike’s heart, considering his continued struggle with war-induced depression, and his association with fellow soldiers and sufferers.


[2] The story of Douglas Bader, (1910-1982) the physically disabled air ace, who persuaded the Air Force to accept his re-enlisting at the commencement of WWII, fought in the Battle of Britain, and was captured and imprisoned in Colditz Castle. His biography by Paul Brickhill appeared in 1954, and the award winning movie of the same name was released in 1956.


[3] A bestselling novel by Nicholas Monsarrat (1910-1979) based on his experiences commanding a corvette in the North Atlantic during the war. It was filmed in 1953. One of the most haunting images in its pages is the description of a small circle of skeletons floating on the waves of the deep Atlantic, bound together in a circle, still in their life-vests and still holding hands.


[4] Written by Heinz Knoke, one of Germany’s outstanding air aces and published in 1954, it details in dramatic detail his experiences in the Luftwaffe. Like many post-war books by German military personnel, he emphasises the fact that he was ignorant of the true political status of Hitler and was shocked to discover the truth about the Nazi regime after the surrender.


[5] One of the great escape novels from WWII, Patrick Reid’s 1953 book was based loosely on his own successful escape from Colditz Castle in 1944. The film made in 1955 is considered a shallow work compared to other movies of the genre.


[6] Sellers uses a distinctive high pitched voice somewhat akin to Spriggs.


[7] M.C.C. is probably a spoof on the M.C. – the Military Cross. The award was created in 1914 for commissioned officers of the substantive rank of Captain or below and for Warrant Officers, then in 1931 was extended to Majors and also to members of the Royal Air Force for actions on the ground. M.C.C. also stands for the Marylebone Cricket Club which plays at the ‘Lords’ cricket ground in St. John’s Wood. Cricketers from all over the world are taught the game according to rules maintained by this club.


[8] Whereas this voice is spoken by Sellers with the serious tones of a war correspondent.


[9] Milligan.

[10] An urchin hair cut was the vogue in London towards the end of the 30’s. Also called ‘a la garçonne’, the style was cut as close as possible to the head without losing the bulk of the hair. It was a considerably daring, taking its name from a scandalous French film from 1936 “La Garçonne” starring Marie Bell as an emancipated French girl who leaves home to pursue an independent lifestyle, including smoking opium and conducting a lesbian affair with Edith Piaf. The hairstyle was revived in the 70’s by such actresses as Mia Farrow and later Wynonna Ryder.


[11] The expression ‘to work one’s ticket’ seems to have originated around the Napoleonic era, when British soldiers overseas were expected to pay for their own passage home, and consequently often had to work for an extra period to save up the amount necessary for such a ticket.

[12] As daft as it seems to us nowadays, these devices were used during WWII as defence against low-level dive bombing raids, and later in the war against the low-flying V-1 flying bombs – the ‘doodle-bugs’. However, against high altitude German bomber formations they were less than useless, causing many problems for ground defence when they broke free from their moorings. Nevertheless, despite their cumbersome ineffectuality, 3000 of them were in use by 1944 over England’s major cities and Ports. Many Londoners became quite attached to their hopeless, fat, barrage balloons hovering overhead, and the mention of the subject here by Spike undoubtedly brought back fond memories to many in the audience.

[13]Germany, Germany above all…” is a line from the first verse of a 1841 poem by August Heinrich Hoffmann.  Set to the music of Joseph Haydn, the third verse was proclaimed the official song of Germany in 1922. However, under the Nazi’s the first verse was taken as the official text. Sellers pronounces ‘alles’ as ‘allies.’


[14]There’ll Always be an England” is an English patriotic song written by Parker/Davies & Charles and was first sung in the 1939 film ‘Discoveries’. Later in the same year, Vera Lynn released a cover version of the song, which later became a huge hit following the declaration of war in the September. Within two months, 200,000 copies of the song had been sold. Parker & Charles wrote another great song during the war - “We’ll Meet Again.” It became Miss Lynn’s greatest and most enduring hit.


[15] Spike was much amused by this image of high ranking officers who have sworn never to be captured cowering down a hole far behind the lines, or huddled in a POW camp. It comes up on at least two other occasions; in ‘African Incident’ (“Rather than surrender we gave ourselves up,”  14/8th) and ‘Tales of Men’s Shirts’ (“The prison was full of British Officers who had sworn to die rather than be captured. 2/10th)


[16] A stirrup pump was a portable hand-held pump commonly used in WWII, held in position by a foot bracket resembling a stirrup, and used for spraying water onto small fires. Some were quite large, having 30 feet of hose and could spray a distance of 15 feet.


[17] Although not made of cardboard, both the Allies and the Axis powers used dummy tanks in both WWI and II. The first instant in WWII was during the Battle of Alemain, when the British used portable mock-ups of tanks made from wood and hessian to confuse the German reconnaissance planes. A larger plan was employed prior to the D-Day landings at Normandy with ‘Operation Fortitude,’ which was designed to promote the appearance that the Allied forces would attack German positions elsewhere, notably the Pas de Calais.

[18] Bloodnok is singing the Noel Coward song “I’ll Follow my Secret Heart” from the 1934 musical “Conversation Piece”.  Never gaining the same popularity as “Bitter Sweet” or his earlier theatre works, this song remains one of the most memorable and loved of all of Cowards output.

[19] A 1938 jazz standard by Gillespie and Coots. Coots wrote over 700 songs, some of his most famous being “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and “Love Letters in the Sand.” This particular song was performed and recorded by every star of the post war era, including Holiday, Garland, Dietrich, Armstrong, Sinatra, Bennett, Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald, Tatum and Dave Brubeck. The arrangement Geldray uses here is a particularly fine example of 1950’s style band arranging.


[20] Another one of Sellers’ beautifully judged effects on radio is how, at times, he would stand slightly off-mic. He does it here as Colonel Grytpype conversing with Seagoon, and the effect is to give the scene a more three dimensional aspect. It makes Grytpype seem slightly remote and distant, as if he is on the other side of a desk, and gives Sellers the opportunity to get threateningly close when he wants to add impact to his lines.

[21] The English channel is narrowest in the Straits of Dover. It is – as Seagoon says, 21 miles wide. It was first swum by Captain Matthew Webb in August of 1875. His later attempt to swim the whirlpools below Niagara Falls was less successful.


[22] Moriarty’s role here is no doubt a spoof on Charles De Gaulle, leader of the Free French Forces during the war. Much speculation exists about this description of Englishmen. It was popularly ascribed to Napoleon Bonaparte, but now it seems that the phrase originates from the pen of Adam Smith in his 1776 treatise ‘The Wealth of Nations.’


[23] This odd expression was very common in the earlier part of the twentieth century. It seems to have had a mercantile origin, and comes from the use of pigeon-holes in offices to receive mail, inter-office communications and business negotiations, orders and receipts. Therefore to say that something is your ‘pigeon’ is to say that something is your business.


[24] This FX is being done vocally. It is not clear who it could be, as all three Goons are engaged in the conversation.  It sounds vaguely like Milligan, which would mean it was a GRAMS.


[25] The next 16 lines are an example of why the Goons were considered magic when performing together. Their ability to improvise, stay in character, yet give each other enough ‘sound room’ so that audiences could make out roughly what was happening, is one of the most remarkable things in all of radio. It is also worth repeating here that Minnie and Henry were really based on Spike’s mother and father, Flo and Leo. Dominic Behan quotes Spike as saying,

The conversation between Henry and Minnie was really based on my father and mother who used to talk to each other and not listen – from separate rooms: they never listened to each other.”


[26] Secombe. This was only other part that Secombe played regularly apart from Neddie Seagoon.


[27] Milligan mumbles something after the end of the sentence. Close listening suggests he almost says “…you know.”


[28] Milligan, in a deeper version of Eccles’ voice.


[29] A slight incident happens here involving Spike, who is off mic. As Bannister, he interjects “Good man!” after Crun’s first line. Secombe then blows a faint raspberry, and Min then Henry both reply “Ooh!” a moment later. The audience (and Secombe) crack up badly as Sellers returns to the final part of his line.


[30] Written by the extraordinary pianist, composer, arranger, songwriter and producer Jesse Stone, under the pseudonym Charles Calhoun, it was released by Bill Haley and His Comets in 1955 on the Decca label, with ‘Two Hound Dogs’ on the flip side, becoming the first roll-and-roll recording to sell over a million copies.

Jesse Stone (1901-1999) single-handedly changed the course of 1950’s rock and roll. As one of the only Afro-Americans in the upper management of the recording industry, he was well aware of the business side of commercial of pop music but still totally in tune with his own rhythm and blues background, using his experience to produce some of the greatest tracks of early rock-and-roll for Bill Haley, The Drifters, The Chords, Big Joe Turner, Ray Charles and Chick Webb.

[31] A standard number for Lounge Quartets, it comes from Sigmund Romberg’s musical ‘The Desert Song’ (1926).

[32] Sellers in a French accent. It is tempting to see this as an antecedent to the voice he eventually used for Clouseau, but Sellers is not so easy to pin down. There is a strong American twang to the accent, whereas Inspector Clouseau was always pure continental.

[33] Series Six of the Goon Shows contains the most number of War-based episodes of all the series. The shows concerned are ‘The Man Who Won the War’ (1/6th); ‘Rommel’s Treasure’ (6/6th); ‘The Choking Horror’ (22/6th); ‘The Fear of Wages’ (25/6th); and ‘The Man Who Never Was’ (27/6th). This emphasis on war stories also corresponds with the increasing number of published accounts of World War Two appearing on bookstands all over the country at this time. The middle years of the decade saw a vast of number of WWII stories appearing in print and on film, but Milligan’s memoirs, published twelve years later, differed in all respects from the heroic accounts much loved in the 1950’s.

They were hysterically funny accounts of soldiery in the trenches, full of life and mateship and believable stories of cowardice, innocence and absolute cock-ups, all contributing to the allies final victory. But most of all his memoirs are accounts of the insufferably long periods of boredom he and his regiment endured, waiting for the next action to come, and the small, amusing diversions that the soldiers got up to, so as to pass the time. It is this ennui that provided Spike with the fertile soil which was the become the Goon Show.

You see, despite its entertaining writing, the central tenant of the Goon Show series was boredom.

The characters are playing out a grand charade of waiting. They are ‘waiting for Godot’ in an incomprehensible, unending, Milliganesque battlefield. Min and Henry wait in a wasteland of suburban decrepitude, unable to find the keys to the doors of their futile, elderly existence. Moriarty and Grytpype live in a gradually disintegrating present, bit by bit losing their home, clothes, character, nationality, self-respect and sanity for the sake of survival. Bloodnok is constantly on the run from an imaginary enemy, always ready to surrender, always willing do anything for the right price, never able to escape his own past. Seagoon is constantly being outwitted by his own comrades. The battlefield is treacherous both within and without.

Eccles and Bluebottle – (Milligan and Edgington in real life), are waiting for death. Frozen in time and character-space, these two personifications of English working-class heroes have nothing to gain and nothing to lose. They amount to nothing. They want nothing, and are satisfied with nothing. One is an adult unable to stop being a child, and the other is a child unable to become an adult. Championing the little man facing the present with nothing more than childish dreams, these two idiots were to become the greatest characters of Spikes invention. Two idiots, making sense of life in the final seconds before the bomb that would do them in would do just that.